Church

YAR Madlib – Calling the church to go pee pee.

There isn’t actually a YAR Madlib in this post, because I haven’t taken the time to write one, but I think it’s a fantastic idea and someone should. I would love to see the results of our middle-school selves filling in YAR-post blanks with various middle-school crudities, and giggling our little heads off. Yes, that’s a potty joke in the title of my post. Yes, I’m immature.

I have a friend who is becoming a novice member of Reba Place. People do that. And Reba place is radical, right? Emerging church and all that? I mean, it is in Chicago, and has an intentional community attached to it. They are also still fighting over women in leadership – let alone LGBT rights or couples holding hands before marriage. And that’s not something new – that’s all fairly well rooted in Anabaptist tradition.

I can’t really pick on Reba, as I don’t know the details well at all, but sometimes the earnestly ‘Anabaptist’ church scares me as much as the fundamentalist/evangelical. And what really does define the Anabaptist tradition? Is it really a peace-making stance, or is it mainly an obsession with perfection, passive-aggression and boundary-drawing? Our defining issues in history have been buttons, mustaches, pianos, women, divorce, and queers. Keeping the church clean for Jesus. Go us.
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More Mennonite Notes from a Catholic University…

I love mass. I love the reverence, the ritual, the community, the unity, the history and recognition of the “cloud of witnesses” in the celebration of the Saints, the fact that across the entire world people are celebrating in the embodiment of the Divine in our world at the same time…Over the last year and half at Notre Dame, I have let myself become more and more engulfed in mass. It calms me. It blesses me. And the spirit moves. I feel more and more that I am coming to understand what transubstantiation means. I think this understanding actually came more as a result of backpacking this summer and reading a lot of Mystics, than actually participating in mass. How can I not understand or recognize the embodiment of the Divine—In the trees, in the Earth, in Eyes that shine, in conversations that churn my stomach, and yes, in the wine and bread? God is present in our communion, in our gathering, and in our taking of the body and blood. The closer I feel to the Catholic community and the more I feel I understand the Eucharist, the more difficult mass has become. I think Brian’s blog sums up the feelings I have in mass better than I could ever articulate myself. So, it is a struggle—a struggle of exclusion and one that has brought me to tears more than once. But without it, would communion mean what it does to me now? I do think there is something missing in the Mennonite church in regards to the sacraments—or maybe it was just missing for me. I needed a deep understanding of what our joining as a community in the Spirit means—what it calls us to. I sat at the front of the Basilica the other night for mass. I witnessed the enjoining of the community as the line people slowly trickled toward the “body of Christ.” It was a beautiful way to pray, witnessing each person coming together with the rest through Christ in us. (more…)

Right Worship

“One reason why we Christians argue so much about which hymn to sing, which liturgy to follow, which way to worship is that the commandments teach us to believe that bad liturgy eventually leads to bad ethics. You begin by singing some sappy, sentimental hymn, then you pray some pointless prayer, and the next thing you know you have murdered your best friend.” — Stanley Hauerwas, The Truth About God: The Ten Commandments in Christian Life, p.89

Living in a world of Post-s, -ists, and –isms

[I have been invited to share this with you all and look forward to joining the conversations. Please note that this is NOT in edited form, that it is merely a spewing of thoughts. I look forward to further feedback and discussions. Please note also that I’m eager to find a different phrase to encapsulate what I love about the movement of the post-Christendom church … perhaps “grassroots christianity” or “grassroots Christ-living” …]

Living in a world of Post-s, -ists, and –isms:
What the Emerging Church movement can teach Anabaptism

Mennonites in the United States are slowly realizing that we live in drastically different times and in drastically different ways than our Anabaptist leaders lived. Are we living in such a way due to evolving revelation or have we let go of our fundamental radical roots? (more…)

Reflections on Mennonite Young Adult Fellowship Retreat

This past weekend I, along with a couple of other YAR writers, went to a campground outside South Bend, IN for a weekend of conversation, games and networking with about 50 other young ethnic Mennonites in their twenties. I decided to go to the gathering after reading about it in Katie Ho’s post a month ago. I figured it would be a good way to reconnect some small part of the Menno community after being out of the country for two and a half years. And in that regard, I wasn’t dissapointed. While there were a few old friends in attendance, there were also lots of new and interesting people to chat with, including the chance to meet a fellow YAR blogger for the first time in person (Brian Hamilton). There were thoughtful sessions by Ken Hawkley, former Mennonite Church USA young adult worker. The Bike Movement crew did a presentation about their trip, their conversations and their upcoming documentary. And Jason Shenk and Nicole Bauman led a discussion session on young adults and the Mennonite church as part of their new roles with AMIGOS. To balance the serious parts there was also Menno Run, a version of survival. With Anabaptist hunters instead of wolves and foxes and Anabaptist instead of rabbits and deer. All this with liberal doses of engaging conversations. (more…)

‘A True Global Culture of Peace’

If there’s one thing I envy the Catholic hierarchy, it’s their ability to respond quickly and compellingly to particular situations as they arise. On Tuesday, the Vatican published statement addressing the UN committee on disarmament, who is working through its discussion and draft resolutions this week and next. (The UN site keeps a running tab of press releases from the committee if you’re interested.) In a work of sharp analysis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace speaks challengingly and specifically about its hopes.

…The Holy See acknowledges the many initatives undertaken by the United Nations and by regional organisms and civil society to avoid the race in armaments, to promote mutual trust between states through cooperation, information exchange and transparency in possesion and purchasing of arms. Nevertheless the Holy See urges the international community to assume its responsibility in establishing an obligatory legal framework aimed at regulating the trade of conventional weapons of any type, as well as of know-how and technology for their production.

And they go on to name a specific proposal they want to endorse.

Now, I’m sure that the MCC United Nations Liaison Office is speaking with similar precision. But if only we had some way to express our own collective convictions as Anabaptists!

Tempting Faith shows Bush exploitation of Christians

I’m not usually one to post videos on blogs, but this two part series on the Keith Olbermann show covers the new book by David Kuo, a longtime conservative Christian political operative and deputy director of White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives.

Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction appears to be just what its title claims: a thorough expose of the way the Bush administration has strung along Christian leaders over the last 6 years. The general themes of broken promises to conservatives won’t come as a surprise, but the specifics coming from an insider are still very disturbing. One minor, but telling quote from the book:

[Christian leaders] were given passes to be in the crowd greeting the president or tickets for a speech he was giving. Little trinkets like cufflinks or pens or pads of paper. Christian leaders could give them to their congregations or donors or friends to show just how influential they were. Making politically active Christian personally happy meant having to worry far less about the political Christian agenda.

But you can watch it all in gory glory for yourself in Part 1:

and Part 2: (more…)

Bearing Gifts

Those who attended the Mennonite Youth Convention in Orlando, FL in 1997, may recall Tony Campolo commenting that ironically, “In the Catholic Church the wine turns into Jesus’ blood, but in the Mennonite Church, the wine turns into grape juice.” This past Saturday, at the wedding of two of our friends my wife and I participated in our first Catholic Mass. Not only did we partake in the ceremony of the Eucharist, but we had been asked to be the “Gift Bearers” (not to be confused with the “gift receivers” who collect presents for the bride & groom). The gift bearers carry the gifts- that is, the bread and wine – to the altar and present it to the priest. We considered it an honor to be asked to take on such an important role in the service. (more…)

The ‘Reign of God’ is among you…

The Associated Press reported, on October 8, that 75 people attended the funeral of Charles C. Roberts. About half of the “mourners” were Amish.

In a world run by retaliatory violence, a community near Lancaster PA took a chance on the Reign of God.

That’s history. It’s irrefutable. It’s staggeringly convicting. It’s Anabaptism – lived.

Rich Mennonites in an age of hunger

This past week, the executive board of Mennonite Church USA gave its approval for a $9.8 million building campaign. The new building, which will be built on the grounds of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary, will house both the offices of MCUSA and Mennonite Mission Network. MMN had approved the proposal back in July, but the board of MCUSA held back, wanting more information. You can read the full news release here.

I personally know (and respect) two of the members of the MCUSA board, so I need to tread somewhat carefully here, but I’m still not convinced that a new building worth $6 million (the rest will cover operating costs) is the best way to go. (more…)

Dr. Dobson Makes New Hamartiological Breakthrough!

Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family has made a new breakthrough in Hamartiology that I just had to share with you:

“Culture bends and sways with the outcome of elections,” he said. “If you can find a politician who understands the institution of the family, … who understands that we are at war with those who want to destroy us utterly, who understands that liberal judges … need to be reined in, and if you can find a politician who lives by a strong moral code and believes in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten son, … it would be a sin not to vote for him.” (Star Tribue)

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, it is now officially a sin to vote for a anti-war candidate. Jesus couldn’t have said it better himself.

This reminds me of when I was a kid and had a subscription to Club House (and later Breakaway magazine). And I was a devoted listener of Adventures in Odyssey and Mr. Whittaker (featured above) back in the 80’s. Its wierd to try to reconcile the warm and nostalgic memories I have of that show with the outrage I now feel at quotes like these from Dr. Dobson. Anyone else out there who finds themselves robbed of their childhood icons?

against tradition: a polemic

(this started as a comment and then grew)

personally, i’m rather fond of ignoring the 1200 years of church history between constantine and menno. well, ignore isn’t quite the right word, and menno and constantine aren’t where i would stop.

honestly, constantine was obsessed with making a state church (bad idea) and menno was a strong proponent of celestial flesh theology (yes, jesus passed through mary as ‘water through a pipe’, and no, that was not supported by the science of the times). i’m not saying the last 2000 years are worthless, but they don’t get to be worthwhile guides just because they happened.

i agree that mennonites have a pretention of newness. we’ve been new for nearly 500 years now. in fact newness itself could be called a pretention if you believe that everything has already been thought of or done (give or take the advance of technology and everything that comes with it (such as globalization of nearly everything from world-views to nestlee’s quick).

but what say we reconsider some things? let’s even ignore the howevermanybillion years before christ, because we can (it’s especially easy to ignore the parts no one wrote down). if by ignore we mean ‘not to practice or agree with’ rather than ‘to pretend it never happened’, i’m happy to ignore quite a few things in and out of the bible and church history.

i think the church is in a horrible mess for being 2000 years old. i don’t mean that an organization at 2000 should be better than this one is, but that quite possibly organizations should never be aloud to get that old. too much red tape, too much baggage, too much confusion of the mission statement. i’ve seen three years water down a mission statement.
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Rauschenbusch on the church

“The Kingdom of God breeds prophets; the Church breeds priests and theologians. The Church runs to tradition and dogma; the Kingdom of God rejoices in forecasts and boundless horizons. The men who have contributed the most fruitful impulses to Christian thought have been men of prophetic vision, and their theology has proved most effective for future times where it has been most concerned with past history, with present social problems, and with the future of human society. The Kingdom of God is to theology what outdoor colour and light are to art. It is impossible to estimate what inspirational impulses have been lost to theology and to the Church, because it did not develop the doctrine of the Kingdom of God and see the world and its redemption from that point of view.”

Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel, 1917.

Mennonites Notes from a Catholic University

  • There is a more penetrating paradox of joy and sorrow in receiving a eucharistic blessing than I have ever elsewhere felt. The gentle yet commanding touch of the priest, the exaggerated sign of the cross he imprints on my body, the quiet murmur of a trinitarian blessing intended directly for me: this is surely how it must feel to be embraced and sent by the church! Yet my fellow faithful have just joined a deeper blessing that not only signifies but embodies their unity with each other, with the whole history of the Church, and most especially with the Christ whom they touch, feel, and taste. The sign of my embrace is the sign of my exclusion, not out of malice or in error but because all we can do from our wounded distance is to touch. To touch is to hope for healing.
  • ‘Orthodox’ and ‘Radical’ tend toward the same root, which is the right praise of God. It is all the same tragedy whether Catholics (by assuming that God is contained in their liturgy) ignore the disruptive grace that emerges from proper doxology, or whether Mennonites (by assuming pretentious airs of ‘newness’) undermine the long history of faithful prayer that encompasses every true justice and every true church. There is no Christian doxology without justice and no Christian justice without doxology.
  • A doctrinaire simplicity will never know the wonder of God’s presence inside a building erected with all the extravagance due God’s name, where every detail is molded with care and every resource is quickly marshalled to express our praise. Unflinching extravagance will never discover that a material renunciation for the sake of each other, for the sake of the poor, makes possible the real presence of Christ among all the faithful who have meanwhile become friends. Neither the cathedral nor the house church can be too quickly rejected. Both are beautiful.